I had a bit of a choice about which story I went with this week, which was nice. Wishing to continue with the vague Halloween theme from this month, and for maximum spoopiness, I have gone for another ghost story. This time it was suggested by Steph Minshull-Jones! ‘A host decides to have some fun with people who don’t believe in ghosts.’
2014 – A Week In Stories
The Ghostess With the Mostest
Sandy walked down the street to the station, as she did at this time of the morning every day of the week. She went through the barriers at the station entrance, made her way down the escalator and got on the waiting train.
This was her daily routine because it brought her some semblance of normality. She had no job, nor a need to have one. Riding the rails every morning reminded her of what her life used to be like. It reminded her of better times.
Times were no longer normal for Sandy. When she walked down the road people would no longer make an effort to get out of her way, and instead walked right through her. Passing through the ticket barrier meant literally passing through it, and descending the escalator could quickly lead to descending in to the escalator with a simple lapse of concentration.
Sandy’s life was not normal, because she did not in fact have one, being that she was a ghost. She estimated that she had been dead nearly a couple of years. Time was a rather redundant concept when you had all of it to look forward to, but she still came down to the train every day all the same.
It was a way to pass a fraction of the time she had to spend in the afterlife.
Other than riding in trains of a morning, Sandy had a fairly empty existence. As a ghost she couldn’t interact with corporeal objects without extreme concentration. It was a mystery what kept her from sinking through the floor more often. She often found herself visiting friends or family, or floating in to a nearby house to watch the television, but that was no fun when no one could interact with you, or even knew you were there.
Generally she avoided the company of other ghosts. Sandy was frustrated by their similar inability to interact with everyday objects, and found that most only ever wanted to talk about their cause of death rather than celebrating their lives in retrospect.
This was a subject that she had no interest in exploring in any depth with the billions of potential ghosts she would potentially meet between now and the end of time. Much like when meeting other travellers in hostels around the world, ghosts tended to have a stock set of questions that they asked any new spectral acquaintance, and so she had developed a standard set of answers to go with them for when polite conversation was unavoidable.
What’s your name? Sandy Dunstable; Where are you from? Epping Forest; How long have you been dead? A couple of years; How did you die? Severe anaphylactic shock; etc., though if pushed she would concede that you would probably never get asked the last two in a hostel by the beach in Bali.
To top it all off she had no idea what her purpose in death was. One of her fellow ghosts had once told her that not everyone becomes a spirit, and that only those with unfinished business don’t pass on directly in to the great beyond. Beyond that, she had been given no clues or reassurances other than that when she worked it out she would pass on to eternal rest.
In other words, Sandy’s afterlife had hit a rut, insofar as that was possible. She contemplated this one morning as she rode the train in to the city centre. Perhaps, she mused, she should go to a hostel in Bali, and see if those were the sorts of questions that got asked.
After much deliberation she decided that she probably wouldn’t be able to concentrate hard enough for long enough to keep her on the plane all the way to Indonesia. Sandy may have no body to lose anymore, but she had always been squeamish about heights, and it appeared that this affliction had followed her beyond the grave. Anyway, she reasoned, the questions asked in those type of hostels were much more likely to be geared towards getting in to the pants of e other travellers than they would be existential quandaries about the nature of mortality.
The train rumbled on its merry way, oblivious to its ghostly cargo. Several other spirits boarded the train every morning, and they were probably the closest thing Sandy had to friends, though she had not spoken a word to any of them. Slowly they filtered off as the train came to a halt at various stops, until Sandy noticed that only one slightly misty figured remained at the other end of the carriage.
Sandy observed the figure, whom she had never seen before. She figured that whoever he was, he must be new to the whole thing, because she saw him approach a young couple on the train, looking as if he meant to interact with them. Watching with interest mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism for the fellow’s chances, Sandy found herself beyond surprised when the interloper managed to not only touch the couple. But spooked them enough that they got off at the next stop, muttering something about the train being haunted.
Awestruck, Sandy briefly lost concentration and nearly fell through the train to the tracks below. The ghostly man also got off at the stop, and Sandy had to muster all of her wits to stop gawking at what she had just witnessed and follow him. If he could interact with humans, maybe he could interact with objects. Maybe he could even teach her.
Sandy sprinted through the station, trying to catch up with the man, who was obscured by the crowds. Eventually she caught sight of him leaving the station and wandering off down the street and caught up with him. She felt as though she should be panting from the exertion, but on balance decided that might be a bit weird.
“How did you do that?” she asked to the back of the man’s head, or at least the bit of it that was opaque enough to see.
“Do what?” he asked, turning around. Sandy noticed that he had been young when he died, like her.
“You touched those people. You made them jump. Can you teach me how to do that?”
The man looked puzzled. “Teach you?” he asked. “Can’t all ghosts do that?”
“No!” Sandy replied. “In fact, you’re the first I’ve seen in about two years who can. God knows we all try for a while, but none of us ever manage it.”
“Oh…” the man looked contemplative. “It took me a little while to pick it up. At first I couldn’t, but then I switched to lateral thinking and decided to think of myself as the object I was trying to touch, and think that I really wanted to be touched…” He blushed. “Sorry, that came out a bit ruder than I intended.”
“Of course!” Sandy shouted, not sure she actually understood what he had just said, but wanting to make it look as though she had. “Can you show me?”
The man cast about for a suitable subject, and settled on a drinks can that someone had left on the wall nearby.
“Right,” he said, concentrating on the can. “If I try and move it because I want it to move it doesn’t go anywhere. But if I envision the can, think why it would want to move, I can do whatever I like with it.”
Sure enough, as he said that he moved his hand through the can, which dutifully toppled off the wall and landed on the pavement with a clatter.
“You give it a try,” he urged.
It took a while, as he had suggested it might, but eventually Sandy managed to detach her mind for long enough to get inside the can and move it along the pavement. It was exhausting, but she had never felt more satisfied with an accomplishment in her entire life or death.
“How does it work on people?” Sandy asked, after recovering from her exertion.
“Oh, it doesn’t really,” the man, whose name Sally had discovered to be Roy said. When he noticed the look of disappointment on her face he quickly added, “Well, it might. I haven’t tried it.”
“But I saw you spook that couple!” Sandy protested.
“I touched the guy’s jacket, not him, and then I made the girl’s purse zip and unzip by itself. I guess it might work on people, but it feel a bit weird about the idea of imagining how complete strangers would like to be touched. I’m a ghost, not a pervert.”
Sandy couldn’t help but laugh at this. She spent the next few days training with Roy, building up her abilities until she could pick the can up and move it several feet before it became too difficult to continue.
One evening as they sat watching the sunset it occurred to Sandy that she had not caught the train in several days. This whole new experience was simply too much fun, and she was so glad to have met another ghost who seemed rather underwhelmed by the rules and formalities of the spirit society. She didn’t even know how he had died.
For the first time since she had passed on, Sandy felt like she had a purpose.
“Why were you scaring that couple anyway?” she asked him one day.
“Boredom,” Roy replied. “I’ve given up trying to work out what my dumb quest is. I figure it will be obvious when it needs to be, and until then I might as well have some fun. Right,” he added, jumping off the wall they had been stood on and floating gently to the ground below. “I think it’s time for your first scare, and I know just the location.”
Even though he was largely see through Sandy could still see the glint in his eye, and could tell that he was up to no good.
Ten minutes later they arrived at their destination: a pub in Shoreditch called the Nine Friars.
“What are we doing here?” Sandy asked. Roy responded by pointing at the sign outside the door, which read ‘Skeptics’ Society Meeting Today’.
“They’re focussing on the paranormal today,” he added by way of elucidation.
The pair skulked in a corner and watched the meeting unfold for a while. This, Roy reasoned, would give Sandy a chance to pick her victim.
Eventually they settled on the group’s leader, a rather severe man in his early 30s with a pony tail and a goatee. He was certainly old enough to know better on both counts.
Throughout the meeting he had been waxing lyrical about how ghosts were clearly not real, and that anyone who claimed otherwise was an idiot, and probably had the audacity to believe in God to boot. Richard Dawkins, he asserted, probably did not believe in ghosts.
Sandy scanned the man for an opportunity, and eventually decided on grabbing the hair and holding his ponytail in place.
Well, she thought as she heard the man scream in terror as his head jerked backwards, this was hardly her purpose in the afterlife. She wasn’t still here on this earth to go round pulling Atheists hair all day. But, until she found out why she was still here, she had to agree with Roy. It was a fun way to pass the time.